Category Archives: practicing gastronomy

Garden Time: It’s Spring!

IMG_81143551818378by Kimi Ceridon

Just when it seemed winter wasn’t going to give up without a fight, the thermometer finally bounced above the freezing mark.  After a few false starts, it looks like it is going to finally stay there too.  The days are getting longer and the sun is reaching higher in the sky.  As if I needed another sign that spring has arrived, my yard is finally littered with white, purple and yellow crocuses. That means it is time to start thinking about the garden.  Actually, I started thinking about starting my garden since ordering my seeds back in January, but it’s time to put those seeds to use.

I used to wait until the May rush and buy all my seedlings from the garden store. However, I’ve been seduced by the January seed catalogs into starting my own plants from seeds.  They offer not only an irresistible tug of springtime hope in the middle of winter, but also so many more varieties of plants.  Just try to find 71 varieties of tomatoes or 22 varieties of pumpkins or multiple varieties of most crops in your local garden store or home improvement mega box.  You can’t, it isn’t cost effective to carry more than a few ‘favorite’ varieties.  IMG_81260204578379

I start my garden from seeds in soil blocks using full spectrum lightbulbs in my basement.  To take advantage of the short growing season here in New England, now is the time to get started.  Don’t let my set up intimidate you, it has evolved over several years of trial and error.  All you need is a sunny window, a few small pots, some soilless seed starting mix and a few choice seeds.  All of which can be had at your neighborhood hardware and garden store.  Some grocery stores even care basic supplies.  

904229_10200868736497540_324741037_oStarting plants from seed can seem kind of intimidating.  Admittedly, it doesn’t always go well.  Sometimes you forget to water them and they dry out.  Sometimes they don’t get a good start and end up spindly and weak.  Yet, sometimes they work wonderfully and produce beautiful robust plants.  This is part of the fun of planting a garden.  It is also why so many gardeners exhibit calmness and patience; two traits I am personally trying to cultivate from my garden.  For many years, I would start a few of the more interesting crops from seed with plans to purchase some plants from the garden store.  This way, if things didn’t work out with my seeds, I had a backup plan.  Besides, if you start early enough, you will know what is going well and what is not before the garden stores start stocking vegetable plants.  

IMG_81156379977378As I know many of you don’t have a lot of space, I also want to dispel the myth that you need a big backyard to get started.  A sunny balcony, stoop, windowsill or countertop is enough for growing a few container plants to bring a few fresh vegetables or herbs into your kitchen.  It is also a great opportunity to learn without a big investment.  For example, loose leaf salad greens are easy to grow from seed, easy to care for and will make it to a dinner plate in just a few weeks.  Fresh potted herbs are also the gift that keeps on giving.  If you keep a few shallow pots of salad greens in rotation, you can keep yourself in weekly greens throughout the year.

IMG_81104059567378There is such an amazing world of flavor hidden in a seed catalog, I suggest trying something new, something you won’t find in the grocery store or even in your farmer’s market. Without starting from seeds, I would have never tasted the meaty and creamy Good Mother Stallard dried beans or the sweet and tangy Lemon Cucumber or the sweetly tart Black Krim Tomato.  Sure, it may not feel like spring quite outside yet, but you can start getting into a springtime mood by getting your hands into some dirt.  My seeds have just started breaking ground.  

After 15 years in sustainable product design, Kimi Ceridon shifted focus from consumer products to food systems. Food is the most tangible, accessible way for individuals to reduce their impact on the planet and make a statement against an unsustainable industrial food system. She is active with NOFA/Mass Boston Ferments, Waltham Fields Community Farms and has led workshops on chicken keeping, backyard homesteading, fermentation, and brewing.  Follow her at noreturnticket.kceridon.com.

Exploring The Culinary Arts Certificate Program – And Why You Should Take It

Jacques Pepin instructs students how to

Jacques Pepin instructs students how to debone a chicken.

by Audrey Reid

The Culinary Arts Certificate Program at Boston University is one of a kind. It was founded by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin in 1989 when Pepin suggested turning their highly successful cooking seminars into a full semester course. The program was designed around French cuisine and technique but also highlights other ethnic dishes and cooking styles. The intent was not necessarily to produce chefs – although graduates have certainly pursued that goal – but to teach those interested in food how to cook. 

A class of 8-12 students has been held every semester since its beginning, and Pepin still makes guest appearances to teach. There are a few core instructors but the majority of classes are taught by a rotation of Boston’s best chefs (think diversity but also networking). The program also takes field trips to stage in local kitchens, visit producers, and work with other food professionals like writers and photographers. Additionally, students are exposed to cooking in volume by hosting large events for the Seminars in Food, Wine & the Arts. Upon graduation, students are very well rounded in cuisines, techniques, methodology, and Boston food culture.

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Culinary students preparing birthday cakes for Julia Child’s 100th birthday celebration.

Whether students want to go into the kitchen, use their knowledge to support other academic work, or just want to make dinner for friends and family, the Culinary Arts Certificate Program is worth every minute. 

If you aren’t convinced that you need to take this class, perhaps Katherine Shae and Tianyu (Cici) Ji can persuade you. Katherine and Cici are MLA Gastronomy students currently taking the Culinary Arts Program and were interviewed about their experience (and love for!) the class.

Interview with Katherine Shea, expected graduation in May 2014

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself.
  • I’m from West Hartford, CT. Most of my jobs previous to working in the food industry were related to teaching (both of my parents were teachers). I did a sustainable agriculture program in Italy for the last semester of my bachelors at UCONN and that is what prompted me to apply for the gastronomy program. Since the switch to gastronomy/food industry I’ve worked at a restaurant (Front of House) in Cape Cod, Whole Foods (Specialty), Allandale Farm and a couple other farms in Maine for the summer.
  • How far along in the program are you and what do you plan to do after graduation?
  • This is my last semester in the program and I am not entirely sure what I want to do with the degree but I would love to be in the field of Agriculture (perhaps policy).
  • Why did you chose to take the culinary arts certificate class? 
  • It is definitely the best class I’ve taken in the program. I chose to take it because I went to a Jacques Pepin lecture last year with my class and a fellow Gastronomy student asked Jacques what advice he has for people going into the field. His response was to start with learning how to cook. He explained how anything related to food: food writing, policy, business, all stems from the basics of cooking. Recently, our class had the pleasure of having Sheryl Julian visit and she reiterated that same notion. She explained that her training in Culinary allows her to understand exactly what it takes to make a dish that she is critiquing.
  • What do you hope to do with your culinary training?
  • I know that I won’t work in a professional kitchen after the program, but I am sure that the skills I’ve learned will be useful in my life and future career.
  • Would you recommend the class and why?
  • Until the Culinary program, I had no idea how much was behind just cooking. The technique and skill involved is amazing, and learning from the best chefs in Boston is an incredible experience. I think everyone in the Gastronomy program could benefit from trying the culinary program. I strongly urge Gastronomy students to take the culinary class, you will learn a ton, have fun, and make great connections in Boston!
Katherine and Cici hard at work.

Katherine and Cici hard at work.

Interview with Tianyu (Cici) Ji, expected graduation in December 2014

  • Where are you from? 
  • Beijing, China
  • Why did you choose the Gastronomy Program?
  • The Gastronomy program is a good combination of academic and hands-on experience.
  • What do you plan to do after graduation?
  • I would like to have a restaurant after studying in major food countries.
  • Why did you chose to take the culinary arts certificate class?
  • The culinary arts program is a one-of-a-kind experience in the world. Our instructors are from the business in Boston, and what they do are not only about techniques, but also good attitudes of persons in the industry. I learned a great deal from each and every one of them.
  • What do you enjoy about the culinary arts program?
  • The intensive program is well designed. There is one field trip almost every week plus special events in the semester. The chefs/instructors are helpful in the kitchen. I got the chance to stage in some of the best kitchens in Boston. This experience is so unique.
  • What has been your favorite dish to learn to cook?
  • I can’t really name a favorite dish, because they are all so fantastic. Cooking is not difficult, but it takes practice to make the good food right.
  • What has been the hardest part about the class?
  • Remembering the dishes in a short time. Learn to cook efficiently with recipes. Take notes.
      • Would you recommend the class, and why?
      • There is no better way to learn about food except for cooking it and tasting it. The culinary arts program allows me to think of food in a classic perspective and that is always important before going deeper about the gastronomic aspects. After all, food is for people to enjoy. I would be a great loss were I not in the culinary arts program.

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        Foie gras with figs and port.

For more information about the Culinary Arts Certificate Program, you can visit their webpage at http://www.bu.edu/foodandwine/culinary-arts/, email cularts@bu.edu, or call 617-353-9852.

Audrey Reid is president of the Gastronomy Students Association, manager of the Gastronomy at BU blog, and in her final semester of the Gastronomy Program. She has a BS in Chemistry, is a graduate of the Culinary Arts Program, and is earning her MLA with a concentration in Food Policy.

Outside of the Classroom: Searching for the New Mofongo

Gastronomy students are always busy, both inside the classroom and out. On the rare occasion that school is not in session, students take advantage of the chance to get away and explore life outside of the program. In this mini series, students will recount their 2014 Spring Break to provide insight into gastronomy life outside of school.

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By Andrea Lubrano

As a Gastronomy enthusiast, learning the nuts and bolts of the field is an all time job for an MLA candidate in the program. In an effort to broaden my journalistic skills while complying with homework duties, I chose to focus my spring break, in Puerto Rico with my husband, on the culinary narrative of the island, specifically on the unofficial national plantain dish of Mofongo.

I quickly learned that this well liked meal is made from frying unripe plantains or plátano verde, then pasting them with a mortar and pestle while adding chicken stock, chicharrón (pork crakling), olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. This mash is then molded with the mortar and given a concave shape to leave space for a stew filling of seafood, beef, or pork that accompanies the dish, along with an edible garnish of lettuce and tomatoes. This traditional way of preparing mofongo varies in size and style according to how many are being fed and in what setting the meal is being served.

Mofongo at Donde Olga Restaurant

Mofongo at Donde Olga Restaurant

In an effort to learn quickly about this local fare we ordered mofongo everywhere we went. It was not easy, especially with all the fresh fruits around, but my homework required I eat the grub until I knew it so well that I spoke of it like a native. We ate our way from colonial Old San Juan to the beaches of Piñones where families gather on Saturdays to bbq on portable grills while their children run up and down the boardwalk in a game only they understand. By the tail end of the trip I had more anecdotes and restaurant recommendations for the main island in my notepad then I had time to try them.

The journey continued onto the small island of Vieques where we promised ourselves a break from our smart phones and, therefore, missed on a thousand and one picture opportunities – imagine wild horses galloping around deserted white sand beaches, caves, sea turtles and the world’s best bioluminescent bay – that’s Vieques. This ex-U.S. army base is an enchanting addition to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and therefore to the United States of America.

Mofongo at El Quenepo Restaurant

Mofongo at El Quenepo Restaurant

Here we ate more of the same, but quickly realized by chatting with local bartenders and chefs that modern Puerto Rican cuisine is changing. Although this region is Latin in temperament, due to an almost 400 year rule of the Spanish, its cultural exchanges with the U.S. are abundant. This mostly takes place through the education of Latin chefs in haute culinary practices, who return home to open more creative restaurants, as is the case of Chef José Enrique and his restaurants: José Enrique, Capital, Miel and El Blok, which is opening soon in Vieques. The opposite also takes place, Chefs like Scott Cole of Raleigh, NC, ventured south to apply his cooking techniques to Caribbean ingredients.

Throughout Puerto Rico different styles of mofongo are taking on the post of culinary ambassadors. From the unpretentious at Donde Olga Restaurant ($20) in Piñones, to the more exotic cooking of El Quenepo ($35) in Vieques. Mofongo and its mother the plantain are so significant to Puerto Rican identity that even those living their lives in prison have reported making the mash for mofongo out of bagged plantain chips, which is as close as they can get to the real deal.

Andrea is a last semester Gastronomy student interested in the intersection of food as medicine and food as art within cultures and societies. Follow her at: http://essenessenuniverse.tumblr.com/

Outside of the Classroom: Cheese, Beer, and Life on the Farm

Gastronomy students are always busy, both inside the classroom and out. On the rare occasion that school is not in session, students take advantage of the chance to get away and explore life outside of the program. In this mini series, students will recount their 2014 Spring Break to provide insight into gastronomy life outside of school.

Me, way too excited about all the cheese and looking oh so stylish.

Me, way too excited about all the cheese and looking oh so stylish.

by Mary Chapman

One of the highlights of moving back East from California (aside from the Gastronomy program!) is being just a few hours drive from Windhorse Farm, my aunt and uncle’s parcel of land in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. My last visit there, a whopping 7 years ago, provided me with some of the culinary memories that fueled my passion for food; I couldn’t wait to make more.  After delaying our trip by a day due to Vermont’s biggest storm of the year, we hit the road before dawn on Friday morning.

One exciting change to the area since my last visit has been the addition of the Cellars at Jasper Hill to Jasper Hill Farm, which has made some of my favorite cheeses since 2003. “The Cellars” are a series of caves where cheeses are aged – a process called affinage. We were lucky to score an insider’s tour.  Our host, Vince, showed us from cave-to-cave allowing us to taste cheeses at varying stages of the aging process. When we were done, Vince sent us on our way with a box of cheese and tips on how to accomplish our next task: hunting down Heady Topper IPA.

One of the Cellars at Jasper Hill caves.

One of the Cellars at Jasper Hill caves.

I’d never tried Heady Topper, but we had requests from friends back in Cambridge to bring back as much as we could get our hands on.  Why? It sits at the top of Beer Advocate’s Top 250 Beers in the World. At 2:15 we arrived at Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier and were told by the circle of men already collecting in the beer aisle that Heady Topper would arrive at 3:00.  We queued up and waited alongside people from as far away as Virginia. My favorite part was the response from the locals, who couldn’t understand the fascination and stared at us like a bunch of loons. All this for beer? For them, it wasn’t exotic or exciting; they had access to world class beer all the time.

My boyfriend, Will, carrying our haul.

My boyfriend, Will, carrying our haul.

Finally, we were off to the farm where the chores that would become routine by the end of our visit awaited; giving water and hay to the cows, horses, and donkeys, feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs, and my favorite chore: mucking. If you’re lucky enough to not know what mucking is; it means shoveling poop. Good thing the animals are cute, and the view was amazing. Screen shot 2014-03-21 at 2.34.25 PM

The beer hunt continued on Saturday at Hill Farmstead Brewery.  If we’d thought our 45 minute wait for Heady Topper was something, it was nothing compared to two hours at Hill Farmstead. Brewmaster Shaun Hill produces some of the most balanced beers I’ve ever tasted. Once I’d had a taste, the two hour wait felt completely worth it.

The line at Hill Farmstead Brewery and the worth-the-wait brew.

The line at Hill Farmstead Brewery and the worth-the-wait brew.

Five full growlers of beer later we headed back to the farm to help my aunt and uncle make butter and mozzarella cheese. I left most of the duties to my cheesemonger boyfriend as I sifted through old family photos.

Draining the butter milk from the butter; stretching the mozzarella; an old photo of my grandfather I found - it all makes sense now!

Draining the buttermilk from the butter; Stretching the mozzarella; An old photo of my grandfather I found – it all makes sense now!

That night, as we sipped on Heady Topper and munched on Jasper Hill cheeses, my uncle Rob grilled porterhouse steaks that had come from their herd, and Aunt Kate made mac n’ cheese. It was the meal that I’d been craving throughout my 6 years living in California and now, thanks to my experiences out there and with the Gastronomy program, I had so much more to add to the dinner conversation.  Kate and Rob are passionate about regulations placed on small farmers like themselves and Aunt Kate was excited to learn that there are people like us (Gastro students) who are aware of issues they deal with. For instance, how it was fine for them to serve us their beef, raw milk, raw cheese, and butter, but it would have been illegal for them to sell it to us. When we hit the road the next morning, we had a car full of beer, cheese, and butter, and a brain full of inspiration to continue my studies with a focus on farming policy.

Heady Topper; Grilling in the Snow; Delicious mac n' cheese

Heady Topper and cheese; Grilling in the Snow; Delicious mac n’ cheese

Mary is a first year Gastronomy student. Before joining the program, she spent 6 years making wine and selling artisan cheeses in Sonoma County, California.

Say Cheese!

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

By Marleena Eyre

On February 22, 2014, an uncharacteristically warm day, members of the BU Gastronomy Students Association spent the afternoon stretching cheese curds into velvety mozzarella and turning fresh milk into ricotta. Microbiologist Dr. Benjamin Wolfe, who is teaching Microbiology of Food for the BU Gastronomy Program this semester, hosted the GSA’s Cheese Making Workshop. With a passion for all things microbial, Dr. Wolfe obtained his B.Sc. from Cornell, his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology with Dr. Rachel Dutton.

Walking past modern offices lined with complex equations written on windows in Harvard’s Northwest Lab Building, Dr. Wolfe led us to the kitchen where we were greeted by large stainless steel pots and a slew of ingredients ready for cheese making. Before jumping into the cooking portion of the workshop, Dr. Wolfe gave a brief lecture on microbes and the fundamentals of cheese making.

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

The acidity which separates the casein micelles – proteins in milk that make it appear white – from the whey, also helps to bind the proteins together. This can be done with the addition of rennet or acids such as lemon, vinegar, or citric acid. From these curds, a plethora of delicious cheeses can be made. Though the excess whey is not used in the rest of the process, it can be saved and used as a nutritional additive to smoothies, used to keep a block of feta cheese fresh, or even used as a liquid replacement in baking.

After walking through the various steps to making fresh mozzarella, Dr. Wolfe sliced a 10-pound block of pressed cheese curds and placed the pieces into bowls of hot salted water to induce the stretching process. Mozzarella making is all about physics and using physical manipulation to produce the desired textural attributes known for comprising this well-known cheese.

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

The pulling motion of stretching mozzarella helps to align the casein micelles which are indiscriminately assembled when the cheese curds are produced. Within a few minutes, our hands turned the chunks of rigid cheese curds into silky strings ready for consumption; it was as if we were transported back to childhood and playing with silly putty.

Rounding out the workshop, we had the opportunity to peek inside the lab where Dr. Wolfe and his colleagues spend hours researching and testing thousands of microbial strains. Amongst the lab equipment was a makeshift cheese cave showcasing the fruits of their labor. One whiff of the temperature-controlled refrigerator, a zone of concentrated microbes, was not for the faint of heart; it is an acquired scent prized by cheese enthusiasts.

As gastronomy students, we couldn’t go home without sampling some of the cheese we had made. We gladly piled our plates with caprese salad and ricotta and honey slathered slices of bread. There was even enough for each of us to take some home to share with family and friends.

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

Photo by Audrey Reid

Making cheese at home can be a fun DIY project, and fresh cheeses are the easiest to start with. Ricotta and mozzarella are a couple great examples for novices to try. Ideally, cheese should start with raw milk, but in the United States it can be difficult to come by, especially in the state of Massachusetts. Fresh cheeses, like these, are somewhat more forgiving and can be made with purchased cheese curds or pasteurized milk – you’ll just want to make sure that you get the highest quality milk for the best results.

If you’re interested in learning more about cheese making and the science behind it, visit Dr. Wolfe’s website. He strongly suggests picking up a copy of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen as well. Missed out on making cheese with the GSA? Check out their event page for future workshops, panels, and more!

Marleena Eyre is a second year Gastronomy student, an editorial intern at NoshOn.It, and blogs at The Flex Foodie. When she’s not studying or writing about food, she can be found paging through cookbooks at her local bookstores or breaking the ice on the Charles River with her rowing team. IMG_8079

Food Photography Workshop with Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant

by Audrey Reid

We all love drooling over those stunning pictures of food in magazines and online. Don’t deny it, you are reading a food blog, of course you love to look at food. Well, it is people like Nina Gallant that we have to thank for appeasing our delightful addiction. Nina is a food photographer. She has a knack for revealing the truth of a dish. Like a sculpture, it is what it is, but finding the right way to portray it takes time, talent, and vision.

Photo by Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s family has always been in the food business. So intimidatingly so, that she left Massachusetts to pursue a more artistic outlet at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Nevertheless, no matter how much she thought she was escaping the family profession, her work always seemed to return to themes of food and hospitality. It wasn’t until she was working as a photographer’s assistant on a food shoot, though, that she had her great ‘aha’ moment to become a food photographer. Since then, she has opened her own brick-and-mortar studio in Allston, working on cookbooks, food product packaging, and the occasional portrait.

Nina recently joined the Boston University community to share her skills with eager students and community members. This spring, she is leading a workshop on the essentials of food photography through the BU Metropolitan College Program of Food, Wine & the Arts. Following the four week course, which meets on Saturdays in April and May, students will be comfortable using their cameras on manual and editing their photos in Photoshop Elements. To be a good photographer, you must be able to see the end result and know how to overcome your limitations to get there. This is where Nina comes in.

Photo by Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s goal is to find students who want to learn how to use their cameras as more than a point-and-shoot, and those who want to learn the finer techniques of capturing the perfect food shot, and transform them into confident, capable food photographers. During the first two weeks, Nina will teach students how to maximize the use of their camera’s settings, frame a shot, and to manipulate and enhance photos in Photoshop Elements. The third week will be an adventure into the field to learn about taking photographs of foods as you might normally encounter them. The last session will be a day of eating and photo sharing. Each student will have chosen a dish or meal to photograph at home and will display their creative vision in a mini art show. The more you do, the easier it gets. So yes, there will be homework, but only the fun kind.

This amazing workshop is for photographers of every experience level who wish for a little guidance in their practice and are seeking that ‘aha’ moment where everything clicks into place.

For more information about dates, requirements, and pricing, please visit the Program of Food, Wine & Arts website.
To see more of Nina’s work, visit her website at ninagallant.com

Audrey Reid is president of the Gastronomy Students Association, manager of the Gastronomy at BU blog, and in her final semester of the Gastronomy Program. She has a BS in Chemistry, is a graduate of the Culinary Arts Program, and is earning her MLA with a concentration in Food Policy.

Internship in Review: Nate Orsi’s Experience at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab

by Lucia Austria

I interviewed Gastronomy student Nate Orsi on his internship experience this past summer at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York. His enthusiasm for the program promises fulfilling experiences for any BU Gastronome interested in applying next summer.

How did you feel when you first started the internship at Cornell? What were the other interns like?

Mindless Eating published by Bantam

Mindless Eating published by Bantam

It was an awesome experience, fueled by positive energy, people, and a bit of caffeine. It was almost like anything was possible within the realm of food research. Dr. Brian Wansink, the head of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, has an electric personality. He is so passionate about life, and in particular food.  His book, Mindless Eating, was the first thing we were told to read in preparation for the internship.    Everyone is highly motivated and focused. When you are around people with such a zest for life, it makes you want to excel and explore that world that you are in, which happened to be the world of food. Kitchens and faux restaurants with mirrored glass, study sessions where food preferences were researched, and long hours contemplating how people perceive food were key ingredients to the overall process.

What kind of projects did you work on?

We were assigned to ongoing research projects and weekly tasks related to such topics as creating smarter lunch rooms, investigating obesity and eating disorders, or the effects of chefs cooking in schools. Other research topics included the tie between spirituality and eating meals, food fears, varying perceptions of taste in social settings, and farm to school research.

Nate Orsi

Nate Orsi

I worked on simultaneous projects for the Food & Brand Lab. To hone my writing skills, I was asked to condense an article written on the research potential of virtual reality environments and food. For another project, I canvassed people to gauge their perceptions of tastes of meat sandwiches. I conducted interviews and observed people eating food in public spaces and wrote about my findings. I also provided feedback to other interns and researchers on how to improve menu items for non-profit organizations. We all met together on a weekly basis for problem solving sessions, bounced ideas off of each other, really making progress with our projects.

Much of my work was focused on school gardens, food marketing, independent thinking on how to get kids to eat more sensibly during lunch, looking at kitchens from a historical perspective, and perceptions of caffeinated beverages.

I also helped launch a website which featured research on the process of naming vegetable dishes in school cafeterias.  “Whats in a Name?”  investigates how school lunch programs attempt to get students to eat more vegetables. Research revealed that by changing the names of vegetables, kids ate substantially more of them because it was more of an engaging and fun experience.

What was it like to live in Ithaca for the summer?

Ithaca has a great local food scene. It’s a pretty rad, earth friendly place, full of locavores, gorges, and friendly folks who are in tune with their surroundings and their food system. If you ever get the chance to experience Ithaca I would highly recommend Waffle Frolic, and the Ithaca Farmers Market is unreal.

Any words for students interested in applying to the internship?

Let me know if you get to Ithaca, because while it is a haul to get there, I promise you won’t regret it.

Nate Orsi is a Gastronomy student and member of the BU Gastronomy Garden Club. Read here for more information on the internship application process and deadline for the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab.

Wine and Dine, Medieval Islamic Style

By Elizabeth Mindreau

Nawal Nasrallah adding pomegranate seeds to the chicken with sibagh sauce.
Photo credit Elizabeth Mindreau

The students of Kyri Claflin’s History of Food (ML622) class were treated to a lecture and cooking demonstration by scholar of Medieval Islamic cuisine and food writer, Nawal Nasrallah. Nawal discussed what historians consider the Golden Age of the Arab World, between the 8th and 13thcenturies. She described Baghdad as the center of the world during that period and made medieval Baghdad come alive with descriptions of a cosmopolitan city with a bounty of ingredients in its markets brought by the many caravans passing through. Baghdad was full of nouveaux-riches with a taste for fine cuisine and the means to buy it.

Nawal followed her lecture with a cooking demonstration using recipes from the 10th century Baghdadi cookbook, Kitab al-Tabeekh by Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq. She translated this medieval work under the title Annals of the Caliphs’ Kitchens. Using these age-old recipes, Nawal transformed simple shredded chicken into an aromatic delight by adding sibagh, a dipping sauce made from ground walnuts and pomegranate juice. Additionally, soy sauce was used to replace a medieval Arab condiment made of fermented barley known as murri. The chicken and sauce were blended together and presented on a platter sprinkled with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Nawal adding egg layer to the bazmaward.
Photo credit Elizabeth Mindreau

Nawal prepared a few other dishes, like bazmaward, a pinwheel-type sandwich of cheese, nuts, mushrooms, and eggs, and badhinjan mahshi, a dish of boiled and chopped eggplant mixed with caramelized onions, ground almonds, fresh cilantro, chives, parsley, caraway seeds, cinnamon, olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce. By the end of her demonstration, our appetites were in high gear. We filled our plates and dug in. So what does food from 10thcentury Baghdad taste like? The chicken and sibagh were bright and savory. The badhinjan mahshi was soft and succulent. The herbs in the bazmaward danced on my tongue while the finely minced ingredients of the sandwich melted in my mouth.

Recreating dishes from a medieval cookbook is an amazing way to immerse yourself into a sensory connection with the past. Of course, it can never be the same since the cooking environment, cooking technology, and taste of the raw ingredients (due environmental changes) are different. But, I believe that one can get close to the experience by physically recreating the movements that someone made so long ago to prepare the food and the final experience of tasting and eating it. It can bring us a new understanding of what life in the past may have been like in a very intimate way. It is also a thrill to taste flavor combinations that may not be available in the modern culinary arena.

Clockwise from top: zalabiya under a pita chip, pita chip, badhinjan mahshi, slice of bazmaward, chicken with sibagh, and another slice of bazmaward.
Photo Credit Elizabeth Mindreau

Nawal’s lecture made me appreciate the rich, noble, and lengthy history of Arabic cuisine as well as of the Arabic culture in general. I am discovering that learning topics through a food-centered lens is highly effective. Because food is deeply embedded in one’s daily life, it can be an excellent vehicle for transmitting knowledge. As we ate, Nawal discussed the challenges of translating Medieval Islamic cookbooks into English. She said that so much more work needs to be done, particularly with the cookbooks of Andalus, (Medieval Islamic Spain). More scholars, particularly with foreign language skills, are needed. Time to sign up for Arabic class!

Elizabeth Mindreau is a former graphic designer and first year Gastronomy student. When not studying, Elizabeth is busy trying to feed her two young sons anything but chicken nuggets and Oreos.

Today is Food Day

by Lucia Austria

On October 22, Oxfam America hosted “Plenty for the Planet: Sustainable Food and a Well-Fed World.” Co-hosted by Corporate Accountability International (CAI) and Small Planet Institute, the focus of the night was to illuminate the injustices present in our global food system and to discuss possible strategies to create a better one for a growing planet.

Anna and Frances Lappé
photo credit Lucia Austria

Talk about heavy. I knew that as a Gastronomy student, three hours in a classroom is barely enough time to discuss such broad-scoped issues, so I was interested to see how the two-hour event would pan out. About 150 attendees gathered together at the City Year headquarters in Boston’s Back Bay to listen to presentations and discussions by sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé, manager of Oxfam America’s Strategic Alliance work Liz Carty, and campaign director of CAI Sara Deon. Oxfam America’s Campaign Director, Judy Beals, moderated the talk, and audience members listened while enjoying a vegetarian spread of appetizers sourced from local farms and vendors.

The presentations focused on what the panelists considered the biggest “food myth” about our global food system—big business agriculture as the only way to feed a growing global population. Anna presented studies from the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) that supported global organic agriculture, and played a video titled Food MythBusters that exposes the detriments of industrial agriculture. Frances echoed her daughter’s arguments and expressed the community benefits of organic agriculture by describing her most recent visit to an Indian village that was positively transformed by adopting sustainable agricultural practices.

I’m not a skeptic, just a critical graduate student, and though I whole-heartedly support Anna and Frances’ call-to-arms against big agriculture, I was looking for more. The Food MythBusters video is a great way to bring a once solely academic issue to the minds of all consumers, but the real question that begs to be addressed is not “Is the system broken?” because that’s quite clear, but “How can we fix it?” More specifically, how can we as every day consumers who understand these issues take actionable steps that allow us to be active agents of the food system, to be food citizens?

It was Liz Carty who addressed my questions. She explained Oxfam’s new campaign “GROW” that guides everyday people to contribute to the building of a more sustainable food system. The campaign’s slogan “Fight world hunger starting at your kitchen table,” may sound idealistic, but the explanation of “The Grow Method” combines tangible steps that a consumer can take to hopefully yield realistic outcomes. Reduce waste, support socially conscious companies, conserve energy, buy seasonal produce, eat less meat—I appreciate that these familiar ideas are grouped together in order to empower the individual or household.

CAI’s Sara Deon put into simple terms what I thought was the event’s true takeaway, “talk about food every day.” Chances are, the questions you might have about the food you eat are being asked by hundreds of other eaters, and have come together to discuss and find answers. From activist organizations focused on fair labor, to conferences and symposiums on culture and nutrition, to academic programs that take on the whole gamut—if you have a question about your food, rest assured, there’s a food movement for you to join.

Lucia Austria is a current Gastronomy graduate student at BU. Her research focuses include learning culture in restaurant and food manufacturing industries and ethnic foodways in the United States.

The Fight for Fair Food: Taranta’s Collaboration with CIW

by Alex Galimberti

photo credit CIW

For over a year Taranta dedicated itself to learning and supporting what can be considered the most important element to creating a sustainable food system: ensuring good work conditions for our nation’s farmworkers. It all started during the Chef’s Collaborative Annual Summit that took place last September in New Orleans. There, the Taranta crew met Gerardo Reyes from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Through the connection established with the CIW, Chef Jose Duarte, general manager Chris Titus, and I took a trip to Immokalee where we became aware of exploitative conditions and cases of modern day slavery in the tomato fields of Florida. By understanding the scale of the issues addressed by CIW’s Fair Food campaign, we realized that chefs and restaurant workers represent the final link connecting the food system from farmworker to consumer. Our position as restaurant professionals enables us to raise awareness to our consumers and also question the practices of large food producers.

Through the support of Star Chefs, Chef Duarte assembled a panel entitled “The Human Cost of Food.” Panelists included Gerardo Reyes, author of Tomatoland Barry Estabrook, and Chef Duarte. Together, they presented at the Starchefs International Chefs Congress in New York City. Discussed was CIW’s key strategy–requesting the largest tomato buyers in the country to sign into the Fair Food Agreement. Some of these buyers include Whole Foods Market, Trader Joes, Aramark, and Sodexo. These buyers promise exclusive purchasing from producers who are inspected and verified by an independent auditor. Approved producers comply with a basic set of standards, such as zero tolerance for physical abuse and sexual harassment of farmworkers, just to name a few.

panelists Chef Duarte, Gerardo Reyes, and Barry Estabrook

One of the main points of contention during the three-day congress was Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.’s stance on the Fair Food Agreement. When the congress was held, Chipotle had not signed the agreement. The company’s research and development chefs Nate Appleman and Joel Holland debated with Reyes over the level of involvement of chefs with labor and human rights issues. Both sides left the congress with a wider scope of awareness of the variable viewpoints of industry chefs. This debate struck a chord with the Taranta crew, for sustainable food cannot exist without the fair treatment of farmworkers. On October 4th, Chipotle chairman Steve Ellis signed the Fair Food Agreement with representatives from the CIW. The Taranta crew and I are happy that such an important company in our industry is now an ally in this cause. The battle is far from over, but we believe our efforts sharing this story with the chef community have paid off.

Alex is a Gastronomy graduate student. He is currently the Beverage Director and Chef Instructor at Taranta Restaurant, Boston. Read Alex’s complete post and learn more about Taranta’s visit to Imokalee here.